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Blog author
Sergey Kotlov

Tag Archives: Futurice

Give employees autonomy, start with coaching

Trusting your people and giving them autonomy is all good and well, but as Jurgen Appelo keeps telling us, delegation is a complex process. One of the things you need to do is to provide employees with the tools to resolve their issues themselves. In other words: they need knowledge and skills. In all the companies I visited, there were great coaching and mentorship programs to do precisely that.

Teach them how to organize

At Futurice they’re taking coaching and growing to the next level. Actually, their team of coaches is called the CTO Task Force. The team is responsible for continuous support. Think of competence development, facilitating meetings, personal coaching & mentoring and so on. Also, every employee has access to a mentor to help with his or her personal growth. Those mentors play several roles. The traditional one as mentor, coach, teacher and sparring partner. But sometimes they’re the ones you need for a hug or as a listener.

Those mentors have an important job. And they aren’t just more experienced colleagues, they take regular trainings themselves. It’s important to realize being a mentor is not a full-time job at Futurice. So they still work on client projects, write code etcetera. It’s the best of both world: they’re people who know (and do!) the everyday work and who know what it takes to help others.

External coaches or different roles

Similar ideas you can find at Vincit. Although they’re concentrating less on mentorship, there is a team of coaches helping people to self-organize. The unique thing in their situation:  They work with several external coaches; everyone can schedule one-on-one meetings if they think it would help. Yep, you read that right. Vincit spends a lot of money on professional trained external coaches to help their own people deal with personal issues and development.

A while ago I  talked about this with Lasse Koskela from Reaktor. Surprise surprise: They have a great program as well. What was interesting about their approach: The roles of people at Reaktor can easily change. When I talked to Lasse he was an Android developer working in a team. Several months before that he had a different role, as he was busy coaching teams.

Select your own leaders

People work in more stable teams at Ministry. A company that a while ago took a radical decision. They removed managers completely. Decisions are made together, as a team. Well, some teams really struggled for a while. But they made it work eventually by sending delegates to the company leaders. Explaining they might nog need managers anymore, but they surely needed Team Leaders to keep the whole picture and help with administrative tasks. The solution: Employees select their own leaders. Of course, being selected as a leader doesn’t mean you know how that works. So company leaders began developing a leadership program. One of the things they do is organizing regular talks with all the team-leaders outside of the office. Just one-on-one’s so people can share experiences and exchange tips.

Trust works both ways

These are just a couple examples of the endless possibilities. For me there’s a great lesson to learn. The funny thing is, it creates trust that works both ways. The company will get better results quicker. The worker feels he’s trusted enough to invest in.

See you next week,

Sergey

21 Apr

Don’t give up on feedback, but know when to stop

When you decide to collect company-wide feedback, there’s an important thing to remember: You could fail. And that’s not a problem. After all, it’s just another experiment you can learn from. In this case: You either receive good feedback, or you’ll find out what doesn’t work.

What is success?

Of course, in order to know if what you do works, you need to define what failure or success means. So make sure you define your goals and add a clear timetable. When do you need to see results? When is it time to adjust what you do? Don’t act too quickly, but we’ll talk about that later. The other thing you need to think about is the most important metric in collecting feedback, the participation ratio. That’s the amount of employees that provide you with feedback compared to all the employees. You’ll want to hear as many people as possible, not just a small group. And your employees will only dedicate their time if they believe that it’s not only empty words. So getting back on feedback is a must. Read more about that right here.

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Completing the Feedback Cycle

When you talk about feedback, the last part of the word is very important: you have to get back on it. Collecting feedback correctly is only the first step. Handling it correctly is the second. Because no matter how genius the way in which you collect your feedback, if it isn’t followed by actions, it’s nothing more than a bad retrospective.

Don’t waste their time

For many people getting back on feedback is difficult and time consuming, especially on company level. It’s probably why it often gets neglected. There are surveys and big plans. And then… Nothing. It’s bad because it communicates you don’t appreciate your people. And if this happens more than once people stop trusting surveys. Or worse: everything from HR. That’s also something I experienced myself. I spend time filling in two pages of questions, I thought about it, worked on it and then… Nothing. I felt they wasted my time!

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The Continuous Feedback Loop

Lately, I came across a couple of amazing organizations with smart ways to collect feedback. And that’s important, because feedback might be difficult, it’s important when working on a great company culture and employee engagement. When I ask HR people how they collect feedback they usually mention two methods: short watercooler talks and an yearly survey. Great efforts, but I’m sure there are better ways.

Ingredients for great feedback

Before we go on, let’s talk about the ingredients for good feedback. It’s the perfect balance between frequency and effort. Or how often do I give it and how much time will it cost me? The correlation between these two is quite simple: the higher the feedback frequency, the easier you should make it. Another ingredient is writing it down. It ensures there’s no ‘blur’ and the meaning is clear. And lastly: feedback should be a continuous process, people should know what to expect.

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Principles of Successful Onboarding Process

Each organisation is unique. The mixture of multiple parameters such as clients, business goals, values and markets makes it difficult and even impossible to apply directly an onboarding process of one company to another. Nevertheless, looking at the processes at Futurice, Vincit, Netlight and Ministry I could identify some similarities.

What I struggled with was the understanding why they exist. Until I bumped into a great book “Learning 3.0” by Alexandre Magno. The book goes deep explaining how human brain learns new things and why many existing practices are not effective.

Reading it I realised that onboarding is a learning process.

Onboarding is a learning process.

New employees learn about the values, structures, processes, colleagues and products an organisation has. The organisation learns about the values, habits, skills and behaviour of new employees.

What if we look at the principles of learning process in modern complex environments and see how they apply to real life examples? Sounds like a plan to me!

Let’s go.

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